Tanier’s First Round 2021 NFL Mock Draft | Picks 17-32
17. Las Vegas Raiders: Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech
Most teams would be put off by Caleb Farley’s offseason back surgery. Yet, the Raiders are not most teams. Farley is a Jon Gruden type of athlete, and Mike Mayock covets tall, physical defensive backs so much that he won’t just draft the best available Clemson player this year.
Like so many other Raiders’ early-round selections, the choice to pick Farley will either turn out to be a stroke of genius (when healthy, Farley can blanket most receivers) or merely help fill out the injured reserve depth chart.
18. Miami Dolphins: Najee Harris, RB, Alabama
The running back seal is broken before the linebacker seal, no less. The Dolphins have enough draft picks to splurge, are a potential playoff team poised to get the most from Najee Harris’ productive seasons, and currently have Myles Gaskin listed at the top of their running back depth chart.
Adding both Harris and Pitts would surround Tua Tagovailoa with exceptional security blankets. It’s up to him not to get smothered by them.
19. Washington Football Team: Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
Ron Rivera really needs another Newton, but none will be available for Washington. Rivera is too shrewd and patient to try to force the issue at quarterback.
Rivera also needs a Luke Kuechly, and that’s where Micah Parsons comes in. Washington got ordinary-at-best play from Jon Bostic at linebacker last year. Insert the Bobby Wagner-like Parsons in the middle, slide Bostic into a more situational role, and unleash Young and the rest of the pass rush.
Presto! An instant turbocharged defense that can win games while Ryan Fitzpatrick throws 72-inch passes to Antonio Gibson and Curtis Samuel.
That, folks, is how you somehow win the NFC East!
20. Chicago Bears: Davis Mills, QB, Stanford
Davis Mills is not a first-round caliber quarterback, at all. He’s basically C.J. Beathard. Mills is getting first-round buzz not only because a few NFL evaluators love tall pocket quarterbacks, but also due to many who enjoy floating “smokescreen” names to see if some sucker is desperate/foolish enough to reach for a fourth-round developmental low-upside quarterback far too early.
What the previous sentence has to do with Ryan Pace and the Bears is left to the reader as an exercise.
21. Indianapolis Colts: Azeez Ojulari, EDGE, Georgia
Azeez Ojulari is one of my favorite players in this draft class. He’s more of an all-purpose defensive end who can play the run and drop into coverage on zone blitzes than an edge rusher who just tries to run around the left tackle 40 times per game. That said, Ojulari possesses pass-rush juice as well.
Even if the Colts welcome Justin Houston back (they appear to be hoarding cap space like doomsday preppers right now), they can find multiple roles for a versatile defender such as Ojulari.
22. Tennessee Titans: Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Rashod Bateman is a fine value at this point in the draft. He fills the void left by Corey Davis’ departure. He may be typecast as a slot receiver, but his ability to make contested catches downfield makes him a solid fit in an offense built around Derrick Henry and A.J. Brown.
23. New York Jets: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State
Time to protect Wilson so he doesn’t take too many sacks and turn into Darnold and every other Jets quarterback of the last 50 years!
Teven Jenkins played mostly right tackle for Oklahoma State and projects as an NFL right tackle, but that’s fine. Mekhi Becton has left tackle locked down for the Jets, and the whole left-right dichotomy on the offensive line is a little overblown, anyway.
With Jenkins protecting Wilson, incumbent right tackle George Fant can go back to doing what he does best, playing a half dozen snaps per game as the sixth offensive lineman.
24. Pittsburgh Steelers: Jayson Oweh, EDGE, Penn State
The Steelers are the Steelers are the Steelers. They don’t care that Ben Roethlisberger looks like Pappy Brittleshoulder. They’re aware they need a running back and offensive line help. Still, the Steelers draft players for their defensive front in the first round. Exhibit A: Devin Bush (2019), T.J. Watt (2017), Bud Dupree (2015), Ryan Shazier (2014), Jarvis Jones (2013), Cameron Heyward (2011), and so on. It’s what they do.
The Steelers also like their edge rushers to be as athletic and vexing as possible — Watt was amazing, of course, but Dupree and Jones were projects. Jayson Oweh tested like an experimental cyborg at Penn State’s Pro Day but didn’t record a single sack in 2020. He’s Steelers catnip. He will end up with a half-dozen sacks as a rookie when quarterbacks run straight into his arms to escape Watt and Heyward.
25. Jacksonville Jaguars: Richie Grant, S, Central Florida
Coaches hired from outside the NFL and given Roman Emperor-like power often make wonky personnel decisions. For example, Urban Meyer had the cap space to do as he pleased in free agency, but loaded his shopping cart with role players, mid-tier starters, and special teamers instead of swinging hard for one of the big names.
Outsiders also often ignore conventional wisdom about the relative values of the positions or their own teams’ needs; see the last three Raiders’ drafts for examples.
Richie Grant is one of my favorite players in this draft class as a high-energy defender who attacks the line of scrimmage hard and has a nose for big plays. He may not fill an immediate need or play a high-leverage position, but he looks great on film, and some team is going to nab him late in the first round or early in the second. The Jaguars are as likely a suitor as any.
26. Cleveland Browns: Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa
With Jadeveon Clowney bolstering the defensive line and Troy Hill and John Johnson upgrading the secondary, the Browns can shift into “best available player” mode. Zaven Collins is an incredibly rangy linebacker who can add a new dimension to their defense.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Landon Dickerson, OC, Alabama
For Lamar Jackson’s option experiment to finally get the Ravens to the Super Bowl, the interior line must be stout enough to both spearhead the running game and provide a clean pocket for him to occasionally operate within.
Landon Dickerson appears to be on track to return after an ACL tear late in the 2020 season. He’s the type of player who can win a starting job the moment he’s healthy and anchor an offensive line for a decade.
28. Carolina Panthers: Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern
The Panthers’ defense recorded just 7 interceptions last season and allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 68% of their passes. The tall, long-armed, and physical Greg Newsome is just a tiny notch below the Surtain-Horn-Farley tier at the top of cornerback draft boards.
Since we have the Panthers trading down in this mock draft, let’s add a pair of second-round picks (their own and a Saints pick). Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis adds a thumper in the middle to make sure the Darnold-Bridgewater quarterback duel isn’t a double knockout. Florida wide receiver Kadarius Toney adds a Swiss army knife on offense who can do many of the things free-agent departure Curtis Samuel used to do.
29. Green Bay Packers: Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame
The less said about the Packers’ linebacker situation last season, the better. Christian Kirksey is now in Houston, though he filled the wrong lane when his boarding number was called and a dozen travelers beat him into the airplane. Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah looks like he was rendered using CGI, plays with a careening style, and he is fast enough to have played slot corner for the Fighting Irish.
Once Aaron Rodgers watches Owusu-Koramoah fly around the field making plays, he’ll almost forgive the organization for once again failing to draft a wide receiver.
30. Buffalo Bills: Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson
Hey, why not? The Bills’ roster is stacked, Allen could use another all-purpose weapon, and Devin Singletary, while a decent committee back, is not exactly Eric Dickerson.
The fact that the Bills could go in all sorts of directions here and come up winners (insert Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore or imagine Owusu-Koramoah sliding another spot? Go nuts!) underscores how silly the excitement was around the Patriots’ free-agent haul. Bill Belichick moved mountains of money to upgrade to Agholor.
The Bills can just lean back in their desk chairs and add instant-impact players such as Travis Etienne to a roster that reached the 2020 AFC Championship Game.
31. TRADE! Baltimore Ravens: Jevon Holland, Safety, Oregon
The Ravens are likely to pursue a veteran free agent to replace Orlando Brown at right tackle after trading him to the Kansas City Chiefs for this pick. Furthermore, we already upgraded the Ravens’ offensive line a few picks ago. And finally, the Ravens rarely draft for immediate need.
Holland is a smart, versatile, and talented all-purpose safety and slot corner who can provide both depth and a challenger for good-not-great incumbents Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott. It’s not flashy, but you can’t expect a team to draft someone like Lamar Jackson at the very end of the first round every year.
32. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jaelan Phillips, EDGE, Miami FL
What do you give Super Bowl champions who have everything? How about even more edge-rush help! Jaelan Phillips has some exceptional pass-rush moves and tested as a superhero at Miami’s Pro Day. His concussion history is a major concern, but the Buccaneers have so much depth at the edge that they can manage Phillips’ playing time.
If Tom Brady seems a little more creaky, it won’t matter, because the opposing quarterback will be too busy picking clumps of dirt from his facemask to notice.
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